Juvenile Spotted Turtle "Shipwreck" ate a rock! + X-ray
Hello fellow turtle fans,
I thought I'd share a picture and a story of our juvenile female Spotted Turtle "Shipwreck" that we purchased in October 2013.
We had two other aquatic turtles back in October 2013. "Skidplate", a female Western Pond Turtle that we've had since 1990, and "Slider", a male Red Eared Slider that we adopted from a local pet shop in 2008. ("Skidplate" is still with us. "Slider" outgrew his environment and we ended up rehoming him to a nice family with a secure outdoor pond in Summer 2014, but he's another story for another time).
When we brought "Shipwreck" home, being only 1 1/2 years old and about 3" shell length, she had her own 15 gallon setup with heat lamp, full-spectrum lamp, floating dock, a submerged hollow log and plastic plant affixed to the side of the tank to help her climb up and reach to surface. She also had small gravel substrate covering the bottom of her tank.
I was watching her one day as she poked around the bottom of the tank, and... she ate a rock! Not just a we bity pebble, I mean a rock that barely fit into her mouth. I was floored, and a bit panicked. Fearing an upcoming intestinal impaction, and possibly death, I took "Shipwreck" to the vet within the hour.
Surprisingly, the X-ray didn't reveal the big rock that I saw her ingest. Instead, we saw small bits of gravel in her digestive tract. Nothing that she couldn't pass on her own naturally. I was quite relieved. It's possible that "Shipwreck" puked-up the rock while I wasn't watching, prior to taking her to the vet. Or the "rock" could have been something else, something that her digestive track was able to break-down prior to the X-ray. I kind of doubt that. I believe the tiny bits in her system are little pebbles she's been eating. Either way, "Shipwreck" is doing fine to this day. Oh, and when we got back from the vet, I immediately removed all substrate from her temporary 15 gallon tank. "Shipwreck" has since moved into the larger community tank with her older girlfriend "Skidplate".
By this incident, "Shipwreck" taught me some valuable lessons.
1) Growing turtles need minerals and *calcium* in their diet. If you don't provide a cuttlebone, the turtle will pick and choose which rocks/pebbles to eat to supplement it's mineral deficiencies.
2) If a substrate is used in the tank, pick rocks bigger than the head of the largest turtle in the tank, and/or choose a very tiny and smooth substrate that the smallest turtle in the tank can pass through their little digestive systems naturally. If they *do* eat some of this tiny substrate, they will be less likely to suffer intestinal blockage/impaction and possibly, not survive.